Bringing workers to New Zealand

How to bring workers to New Zealand if you are an employer, including 'other critical workers'.

Border exceptions for 'other critical workers'

Employers and supporting agencies can request to bring workers into New Zealand if they are deemed ‘other critical workers’. Employers are still expected to genuinely seek to fill job vacancies with New Zealanders.

NOTE

Requests for approval of critical workers must be made by employers, not individual workers.

Requests for critical workers are considered on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand officials.

There are 3 categories, each with their own criteria, where you can bring employees into New Zealand:

  • worker needed for a short term role — less than 6 months in total
  • worker needed for a long term role — more than 6 months
  • worker for an approved class.

Holding an Essential Skills work visa is not enough to qualify as an ‘other critical worker’.

Employers, supporting agencies or immigration professionals who want to request for a critical worker to travel to New Zealand can apply by completing the Employer request for critical worker exception form.

Applications for seasonal workers will generally not be approved.

NOTE

It costs NZD $380 to make a request for critical workers. You can include as many workers as you want on the same request. Partners and dependants of other critical workers may be included in the request. If workers are eligible to bring partners and dependant children they should be included in the request. 

Requests are generally processed within 2 weeks.

Apply by completing Employer request for critical worker exception form

If you employ a worker in New Zealand who holds a temporary visa you cannot make an application to reunite their partner or dependent children under the family reunification exception for highly-skilled workers. The worker’s partner or dependent child must apply themselves.

Criteria for short term critical workers

A worker needed in New Zealand for a short term role (less than 6 months in total) is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if:

  • they have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand, or
  • they have a role for the delivery of an approved major infrastructure project and earn at least the median wage, or
  • they are undertaking a time-critical role for:
    • a government approved event or a major government-approved programme
    • an approved government-to-government agreement
    • work with significant wider benefit to the national or regional economy. 

‘Time critical’ means if the person does not come to New Zealand the project, work or event will stop or be severely compromised, or significant costs will be incurred.

‘Unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand’ can include, but is not limited to, skills and experiences such as expertise gained in a specialist training institution or by working in a highly-specialist firm, or can be shown by having global experience, or skills and experiences inherent to a person.

Skills are considered not readily obtainable if there are no workers in New Zealand who can do the role, or there is a limited pool of available workers who can do the role and they are not available to the employer.

Applications for seasonal workers will generally not be approved. The only exceptions will be if the work is highly skilled or uniquely specialised. This may include:

  • highly specialist domestic veterinarians
  • vendor-appointed engineers required to install major equipment
  • an actor in a key film role.

Criteria for long term critical workers

A worker needed in New Zealand for the long term (six months or longer) is considered an ‘other critical worker’ if they:

  • they earn at least 1.5 times the NZ median salary (NZD $84,240 a year), or
  • they have a role essential for the completion or continuation of a science programme under a government funded or partially government-funded contract, including research and development exchanges and partnerships, and have the support of the Science, Innovation and International Branch at MBIE to travel to New Zealand to carry out their work, or
  • they have a role for the delivery of an approved major infrastructure project and earn at least the median wage, or
  • their role is essential for the delivery or execution of:
    • a government-approved event, or
    • major government-approved programme.

Events, projects and programmes approved for other critical workers

If you are seeking the support of the Science Innovation and International Branch of MBIE, you need to provide as much information as you can about the role and why it is critical, including:

  • an explanation of the unique skills of the individual and why they are critical to the science programme
  • the specific project or programme title
  • the title of the role being filled
  • a reference to a named government fund fully or partially covering the science programme
  • a contract ID or a copy of the funding contract, or both. 

Criteria for approved classes of workers

A worker coming to New Zealand may be considered an ‘other critical worker’ if they:

  • are in a class of worker approved by Ministers
  • have been nominated by an authorised government agency or an industry group

The relevant government agency or industry group will assess whether the worker meets the requirements of the class, before the worker can be nominated. For example, the worker may be required to have work experience or specific qualifications.

We do not make nominations nor accept requests to be nominated. You must first engage with the relevant government agency or industry group before submitting a request.

Approved classes of workers

Once you have made the request

Immigration New Zealand will review the request and provide advice to their senior officials before a decision is made.

Most requests for other critical workers are decided within 2 weeks from submission.

Immigration New Zealand will contact workers whose employers receive approval for an exception to the border restrictions as ‘other critical workers,’ and invite them to apply for a Critical Purpose Visitor Visa or a Critical Purpose Variation of Conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand. We will email them information about how to make their application online.

Workers who are invited to apply for a visa will need to pay the immigration fee and levies (if applicable) as part of their application.

Alert

Approval does not guarantee visas will be granted to your workers. Applicants must still submit an application, pay the application fee and any levies, and demonstrate they meet all criteria to be given a Visa or a Variation of Conditions.

Maritime sector

Check the COVID-19 testing and self-isolation requirements, as well as entry restrictions for the maritime sector: 

Maritime sector | Ministry of Health

Crew approval for travel to New Zealand

New Zealand citizens and permanent residents do not need approval from Immigration New Zealand to enter. 

Foreign crew who can travel to New Zealand without approval

Foreign crew on the following types of ships can enter New Zealand without getting approval from Immigration New Zealand: 

  • an Antarctic ship travelling to and from the Ross Dependency
  • a commercial cargo ship arriving in New Zealand to load or unload cargo
  • a foreign state ship which is a military craft granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • a ship that has an emergency and is in distress or it is necessary for the ship to arrive in New Zealand to preserve human life.

Foreign crew who need approval for travel to New Zealand

Foreign crew on the following types of ships will need approval from Immigration New Zealand to come here: 

  • an Antarctic ship not travelling from the Ross Dependency
  • a fishing ship unloading its catch, reprovisioning, refuelling, embarking or disembarking its crew
  • other foreign state ships granted diplomatic clearance by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • any other type of ship that needs to be delivered to a business for non-minor repair, refit or refurbishment or for the running of the business.

How to get approval for travel to New Zealand

Ships seeking to travel to New Zealand for pleasure are not permitted to travel.

Ship owners, authorised agents and employers of crew can submit an approval request (INZ 1350) for foreign crew to travel to New Zealand on approved ships.

Crew must:

  • be essential for the operation of the ship, or
  • have unique experience and technical or specialist skills not readily obtainable in New Zealand, and
  • these skills are related to the reason that the vessel was approved to enter New Zealand.

Include with the travel approval requests for all foreign crew members:

  • the ship permission approval document from the Ministry of Health, if required
  • a copy of their passport page, including their photograph and passport information
  • completed form
  • a letter from the employer or shipping agent.

Approval in Principle for Marine Crew arriving by the maritime border request form (INZ 1350) PDF 253KB

Requests from individual crew members will not be considered.

Approved crew members will be invited to apply for a visa or variation of visa conditions to allow them to travel to New Zealand.

Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme 

RSE workers from the Pacific will be allowed to enter New Zealand to support the horticulture and viticulture industries if they meet the requirements for a border exception. They must be:

  • from a country that has a one-way QFT arrangement with New Zealand, or
  • from the Solomon Islands and are travelling to New Zealand in November

If workers are coming from Samoa, Tonga, or Vanuatu they may be able to travel quarantine-free.

Travelling from Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, and Vanuatu

Individual workers need to meet immigration requirements to be granted a visa. All RSE workers must be paid at least $22.10 per hour and for a minimum of 30 hours per week. Employers must pay workers for time spent in isolation and flight deductions for charter flights must not be more than would be charged for a commercial option.

Recognised Seasonal Employer Limited Visa

Employers need an Agreement to Recruit (ATR)

Only employers with an ATR are able to employ RSE workers. The ATR requires employers to show they have taken all reasonable steps to train and employ New Zealanders before seeking a migrant worker. The Ministry of Social Development is consulted in this process.